Brazil, even as I type the word brings back memories of the wonderful months I spent in this Latin dream of a country. Most of us have heard about Brazil’s passion for football, its beautiful beaches and pretty women. So I am not going to try and tell you something different. About how traveling long term in this country changed me as a person for the good.
Not everyone knows that Brazil is the only country in Latin America where Spanish is not spoken. They speak Portuguese there, and your beginner’s Spanish won’t take you too far in Brazil. But if linguistic challenges excite you, then homies Brazil will have you hooked. And that is exactly what happened with me when I got off the flight at Guarulhos international airport at Sao Paulo some 16 months ago.
A personal desire had brought me to Brazil. I was to live in Salvador, a city on the northern coast of the country, famous for its African heritage. It was here that I was to learn to play drums and learn about a fascinating afro-brazilian religion called Candomble. Two months was my plan, but I ended up staying four months in country. That is how much I loved Brazil.
But apart from the good times, when I look back, I realise that the experience did manage to have a positive impact on my personality. Here are a few ways I feel Brazil changed me.
I hardly knew anything about the history of Brazil, one of the most diverse nations on earth.
Brazil is all of 500 years old, but its history still manages to be more fascinating than many other countries. A former Portuguese colony, Brazil is an interesting mix of indigenous, European and African cultures. It is also a grim reminder of the horrors of colonisation and the trans-atlantic slave trade. And as a slow traveler, I had ample time to make observations and ask questions. Today I can say that I am slightly better informed about one of the most relevant countries on the planet.
If you are interested to know a bit more about Brazil’s history, you might want to watch this documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t821sT4AoUY
My taste in music sucked.
An Afro-Brasilian music concert in Salvador, Brazil.
As you can see, I also have a taste for self-deprecation. Though I have always loved music like most people, my choices were pretty limited. It was in Brazil, that I was introduced to a whole new world of music. From learning to play drums in a Candomble terreiro to going for music concerts, most of my life in Brazil was about music. And it is through music that the African heritage stamps its imposing presence on Brazilian culture. Brazilian music has many genres which include(but not limited to) Samba, Batucada, Afro-brasiliera, Bossa Nova, BMP, Funk; etc. The country is a music lover’s delight, and it will make complete sense if you want to visit Brazil only to listen to great music.
Here is my favourite afro-brasilian music set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKWsuc5XSPE
I was awkward while interacting with women.
Many men(and women) I know from my part of the world find themselves awkward around people of opposite sex. Even more so if the setting is even mildly associated with romance. The thing is, our society does not really prepare men and women to be comfortable with each other(though there are exceptions). It was Brazilian people who taught me to be completely comfortable with my attraction towards another person.
Brazilian men won’t wait a minute to make their attraction known to a woman. But women there aren’t far behind either. Brazilian women are known to take the lead when interested. Now I don’t mean to say that everything about Brazilian romance is perfect, but I can safely say that Brasileros can teach us Indians a thing or two about romantic encounters.
I wasn’t completely accepting of diverse range of sexual preferences and expessions.
Friends I made at a LGBT party in Salvador, Brazil.
By no means was I a conservative when it came to homosexuality or other alternate sexual preferences, or so I thought. It is one thing to say that you are okay with something, and another to actually mean it. I remember that at a certain level I was uncomfortable watching two men kiss.
Again, Brazil managed to change that. In Salvador, I went to many LGBT parties and tried to immerse myself in this culture. It was only when I kept witnessing men wooing men, women wooing other women that I began to accept alternate sexuality completely. Today, I am a strong supporter of LGBT rights in India, and it has to do with the time I spent in Brazil
I wasn’t as fitness oriented.
With my friend & Capoiera teacher, Mairton. Fitness is a way of life for him like many Brazilians.
In my previous life as a publicist, work ruled almost all parts of my life. Things like family, fitness and relationships took a backseat. While I am yet to figure out relationships, it was Brazil which made me more fitness focused. Brazilians are famous for their obsession with fitness. Now while it can sometimes go overboard, but mostly it is a good thing. Every evening, the beaches are crowded with people taking a jog or playing volleyball and other sports. It is easy to get positively motivated about fitness in Brazilian cities like Rio and Salvador. It is because of Brazil that I am seriously thinking of moving to a coastal Indian town and making my lifestyle more fitness oriented than it is.
This post is by no means about looking at Brazil with rose tinted glasses. The country has its problems and I am aware of them. However as a traveler who stayed in Brazil and made some fabulous friends, I still will remember the country for its positives. Also, to be in a country where the culture is completely difference from yours is a special opportunity.
If you ask me, each one of us has to find their own Brazil. And I wish you luck with that.